Niall McMahon

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SolEire, the Solar Research Group at DCU

2007-06-28

Enlightening Research

An excerpt from the introduction to DCU's application for the abandoned Charles Parsons Awards in 2007.

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Solar energy in particular will become a key component of DCU's sustainable energy research strategy. Solar energy ultimately provides all of the energy available on our planet, with the exception of nuclear and geothermal energies. Bio-fuels, ocean-, hydro- and wind-energy, although of great importance, are intermediate stopgaps. Harnessing this virtually unlimited solar energy supply represents an important challenge. The cumulative installed solar capacity worldwide increased from about 0.5 GW in 1995 to about 1.25 GW in 2002 and more than 2.5 GW in 2004 (1). In the EU, total installed capacity reached 1.8GWp in 2005, with Germany representing about 86% of this capacity (2). Trends predict a total EU installation of more than 6 GWp by 2010. Nevertheless, solar research has been widely neglected in Ireland even though Dublin receives about the same amount of direct sunshine as central European cities such as Cologne (where the German Aerospace Centre DRL operates a large solar research facility). Solar research also involves much more than electricity generation. Solar is the only energy form that can be used directly to initiate chemical reactions (e.g., for water purification and the creation of storage fuels such as hydrogen) and that is also used by organisms (e.g. algae). Solar energy also has the potential for a significant impact on society, allowing home-owners direct access to renewable energy. Electrical and thermal (Direct Solar), biological and chemical (BioSolChem), economic and social (SolSoc): solar is a truly interdisciplinary subject. The recent establishment of SolEire, DCU's Solar Research Group, affirms the University's view that solar energy must be a key component of its Sustainability Initiative. Drawing on the expertise of researchers from chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, materials, business, communications and social impact of technology, it is the ambition of the University to position SolEire as both a centre of research excellence in solar and a conduit for ideas, both generating knowledge and guiding knowledge to where it is needed.

1. The Economist, Technology Quarterly, March 8th 2007.
2. Source European Union. GWp: Peak Gigawatt, the power output under ideal conditions.

[...]

Mike Hopkins, Michael Oelgemöller (Ed.), N. McMahon (Ed.) and various authors.